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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  July 1, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

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simon and schuster, thank you very much for being on booktv. >> you're watching an interview from booktv's trip to bookexpo america, the publishing industry's annual trade show. for more information visit .. >> i'm sure that james mcpherson needs no introduction. as the nation's most renowned civil war historian, he's a professor of history at
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princeton university and the author of numerous books. many about the civil war. his most notable, of course, was the "batt cry o his most notable was the battle cry of freedom which t won the pulitzer prize for nonfiction. his recent book is wonderful children's book. actually, i think it is a book for all ages. wonderful children's book with pictures about the civil war. welcome james mcpherson who will talk to us today about his recently published book, "hallowed ground: a walk at gettysburg." >> thanks so much and thanks to all of you for turning out on an evening where it might be nicer to stroll along the streets of gettysburg or walk out on the battlefield in the cool of the
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evening. and maybe after we are done here, some of you will want to do that because it is going to stay light until 9:00 this evening. might be fun to go out there and battle the mosqitoes. i lost count of the number of times i had been here in gettysburg on the battlefield and in the town as well. over the past three decades or so, i have walked, bicycled, i have driven around the battlefield and the town by myself, and with a few friends, and with groups as large as 200. i was here two months ago on april 27 with my undergraduates plus a lot of others from princeton university in 45 cars, traipsing around the battlefield. one of the few beautiful days that we have had this past spring. honestly i believe if i were blindfolded and went down to the battlefield from the helicopter on a moonlit night, i could
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remove the blindfold and within few minutes tell where i was on the battlefield. gettysburg has come to have a special place in my consciousness, just as it has acquired, i think, unequalled place in american national consequences -- consciousness and american historical consciousness. when congress created the gettysburg national military park in 1895, the gettysburg electric railway company owned part of the land on which the battle had been fought. down by the round tops in devil's den. this company had built a trolley line to carry tours over that part of the battlefield. and when the park was created, the company refused at first to sell its land to the government. which, therefore, began proceedings to seize it for a fair price under the power of eminent domain.
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and this case went all the way up to the supreme court. where the government argued that the ground where on great conflicts has taken place, especially those where great interests or principles were at stake, becomes at once of so much public interest that its preservation is essentially matter of public concern. and nowhere were such great interests at stake as here at gettysburg. which embodied the government's brief went on, the national idea and the principle of the insolubility. the court agreed. the court ruled unanimously in 1896 that gettysburg has vested with such importance for the fate of the united states that the government had the right in the -- in the court's words, to take possession of the field of battle in the name and for the benefit of all the citizens of the country.
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such a use seems closely connected to the welfare of the republic itself to be within the powers granted congress by the constitution for the purpose of protecting and preserving the whole country. that ruling made or established a precedent that made possible the preservation of many other civil war battle fields as well. where the fate of the whole country in the courts words had been determined. millions of people visit these battlefields every year. not all of the visitors are americans because the civil war has a striking remembers nons -- resonance elsewhere in world. more people go to gettysburg than any other battlefield and of the nearly two million who come here every year about 60,000 are from other countries. they as well as the americans find something moving and powerful in the fields and woods where 165,000 men fought in the
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largest and most important battle, i would say, in the history of this hem sphere. -- hemisphere. they find inspiration in the national cemetery. that's the final resting place of almost 4 thousand thune onsoldiers who gave the last full measure of devotion so that the government of the people by the people for the people shall not perfect frisch the earth. even the adversaries of the united states and cold war considered gettysburg a special place. back in 1976, at the time of the bicentennial of the american revolution a. group of historians from the soviet union came though this country to participate in the events to commemorate that bicentennial. their host, colleague of mine at princeton, and historian of the period of the american revolution and the early republic, asked them which sites then wanted to visit first. he assumed they would first want to go to independenchall.
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or perhaps lexington and concord. or williamsburg. and yorktown. their answer was none of the above. they wanted to start with gettysburg. why? asked my astonished colleague. gettysburg had nothing to do with the revolution. on the contrary. these russians replied, gettysburg had everything to do with the revolution. it was the battle where the legacy of the revolution was saved. and they also compared gettysburg to their own great patriotic battle of stalingrad. that was the hallowed ground in the soviet union's great patriotic war that turned the tide toward ultimate victory over nazi germany. just as gettysburg was the turning point in the american civil war to preserve that
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nation from being split into two. my own serious engagement with gettysburg began that same bicentennial year. because while i had visited the battlefield twice before, it had been only as a casual tourist. on our way from minnesota to baltimore where i began graduate study at johns hopkins in 1958, my wife and i had stopped at gettysburg. we were driving an old chevrolet borrowed from my father, pulling a u-haul trailer filled with our worldly goods. like many tourists between only spent an hour or two at gettysburg and saw a little more of the battlefield than the so-called high watermark. where union forces stopped the picket assault. hi not yet focused on the civil war as my field of study. in graduate school, i came to write my ph.d. dissertation on the abolitionists during and after the civil war.
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but i considered myself an historian of race relations and civil rights movements where a civil war historian of such at that time. my next visit to gettysburg occurreded in 1966 when i again went as a nonexpert with my parents-in-law that who were returning to their home after visiting us at police tons where i had been teaching since 1962. we went south along cemetery ridge to little roundtop. we stopped halfway along to ad mayor the i am with a -- breaking up an attack on july 2. but i still do little -- knew little more about the battle at that time than anyone can learn from watching the electric map show at the visitor's center which we had done on that occasion. not until my next visit in 1976
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did i really know what i was doing. by that time, i had become something resembling a quote civil war historian. i was teaching the bread and butter civil war reconstruction course at princeton. hi signed a contract with a publisher to write a civil war reconstruction textbook which a few yearsater became ordeal by fire. i had to bone up on the military history of the war so i could write intelligently about it. the bias in the halls against military history as it legitimate scholarly enterprise had perhs influenced me to a you void the coming -- becoming a military historian earlier. but i quickly changed my mind. after all, this was a war. the biggest war this country ever fought. the 620,000 or more military deaths in the civil war, almost
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equaled the number of american deaths than all the other wars this country fought, combined. victory or defeat on battlefie shaped the social and political dimensions of the conflict and the future of this country. lincoln got the last clause of his sentence right when he sat here at gettysburg. the world will note nor long remember what we say here, certainly wrong about that, but he was right when he went on to say but it can never forget what what they did here. in his second inaugural address, lincoln got it all right when he said that all else chiefly depends on the progress of our arms. all else included those developments academic historians do consider important. the fate of slavery, the structure of american society, the direction of american
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economic development, the destiny of competing nationalisms in north and south. the definition of freedom. the very survival of the united states as one nation indivisible. all of those things rested on the shoulders of those three million men in blue and gray who fought it out during four years of fury unmatched in the western world between napoleonic wars and world war i. if some of the battles above all perhaps gettysburg had come out differently, the war might have ended with conderate independence whose consequences not only for this continent but for the whole world in the 20th century are incalculable. the best way to understand those battles is to walk the ground where they happened. if i had not previously realized this i did so the first time i took students in my civil war
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course to gettysburg in 1976. most of them hadn't been there before. or if they had, it had been as children dragged there by their parents and not remembering much about it. therefore, they hadn't been able before coming here to visualize how geography and topography, the pattern of fields and woods, hills and valleys, roads and fence lines and rock-out croppings and stres influenced the tactics and the outcome of the battle. most of the students had read something about gettysburg before wiebe went there. principally the novel "to kill angels" which was just out then. but not until they saw the ground did real understanding dawn. not until we saw how the high ground at the peach orchard commanded the terrain did they comprehend comprehend why general dan sickles had moved his corps there on july 2.
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not until we climbed little round top did they see how its retention by union forces after desperate fighting shaped the course of the battle. and most of all, not until they had viewed and then walked the 3/4 of the mile of fields over which the assault took place did they fully grasp why that attack failed. you can read millions of words about the battle of gettysburg, but only by coming here can you really begin to understand it. and this understanding is not just a matter of grasping the top graphical and tackical details. of greater importance, i think is a kind of emotional empathy that one experiences with the men who fought and suffered and in many cases died here. as colonel joshua lawrence chamberlain wrote after the war
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, "in all great deeds something abides." more than anyone -- anywhere else the greatness of deeds abides here at gettysburg. you don't need to be a mistic to sense the presence of ghosts on the battlefield. and i don't mean those ghosts you hear about in the ghost stories. you only need a little imagination to hear the horse yells of the exhausted survivors of chamberlain's regimen as they launched their counterattack at little round top. few who look east from seminary ridge toward the scene of confederate carnage in front of the union lines at the body angle and cops of trees on cemetery ridge can fail to see picket's broken men come limping back. or fail to em pathize as they hear robert e. lee shoulders the blame with "it's all my fault".
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i know because i have been there and i have felt and heard these ghosts. and so have many of the hundreds of students, parents alum ny, friends, colleagues and neighbors i've taken to gettysburg in the quarter century since that first tour in 1976. powerful emotions have profoundly moved some of these people as they walked this hallowed ground. a number of incidents. but two in particular stand out in my memory. one of the preseptemberors, as we call the section leaders of large course at princeton, who is a preceptor in my undergraduate reconstruction course, was a native of south africa. he had seen bloodshed and tragedy in his own country. he joined our trip to gettysburg that spring, driving his car with a full load of students. but half way through the tour
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he told me that he could not go on. he had to return to princeton. are you ill? i asked. not physically. he replied. but the palpable presence of death surrounding us as we trods the battlefield and looked at the regimen tall monday yumets listing the casualties was too much for him. he couldn't take it anymore. i had to let him go because he was in real distress even though that his passengers then had to crowd into other vehicles for our return trip hours later. on another occasion one of my students on the tour had written their senior thesis at princeton under my direction. she had just finished that thesis in the spring of 1987. the thesis was a study of joshua lawrence chamberlain who, as i noted, commanded the 20th main in its desperate
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defense of little round top. where chamberlain won a congressional med yaffle honor. -- medal of honor. we retraced the attack route, principle my the 15th alabama, that had attacked chamberlain's regimen at little round top. and when we reached the place where the 20th main fought, marked with the monument that chamberlain himself had dedicated a quarter century after battle, my student could no longer hold back her tears. and neither could the rest of us. all of us had read about chamberlain in the novel "the killer angels" which assigned in my course. my own voice choked up as i described the action there of the late afternoon and early evening of july 2. emotions too power follow explain overtook us. the ghosts were surely present. the sight where the 20th main
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fought has become the most heavily visited spot on the battlefield, i'm told, by the national park service people. but that was not always so. during my first two trips to the battlefield in 1958 and 1966, i knew nothing of the 20th main's heroics. and no marker on the part of the park service existed to inform me. by my third visit, i had read the "killer angels" and was eager to locate the 20th main position. but i had to bushwhat can my way through the woods to find it. by my next visit the park service in response to many queries by tourists had put up a small sign and cut a dirt path to the 20th main monument. by the 1990's, after ken burns had vividly drama tiesed the fight in the video documentary "the civil war." and incidentally, burns said he first learned about chamberlain
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from the novel "the killer angels" and that was what first aroused ken burns' interest in the civil war. by that time -- by the 1990's, the killer angels had become the tv mini series and movie, "gettysburg." and so much demand was now on the table for the scene where the 20th main fought that the park service had paved the path, lined it with full color-ininterpret receipted markers and put in an overflow parking lot. those ghosts on little round top now have plenty of live company. my tours of gettysburg and other civil war battle fields developed a kind of simbotic relationship with my collarship. like many others who have stood on the spot where lincoln delivered the "gettysburg address" looking out over the graves of the soldiers who fought there, i've taken
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inspiration from his words and their deeds. that experience enabled me to write the tragedy and triumph of the civil war with greater insight, i think, and greater empathy. touring the battlefield with students had a direct causal relationship with one of my books for cause and comrades why men fought in the civil war. we always finish our tour by walking the ground of the assault, swept forward on the afternoon of july 3. the first time we strolled peacefully across he's open pastural fields knowing that those 13,000 confederate soldiers had come under artillery and then rifle fire almost every step of the way, my students asked me in awe what enabled these men to do
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it? what caused them to go forward despite the high odds of coming out safely? and half of them did not. that question came up again and again at gettysburg and at other civil war battle fields about union as well as confederate soldiers. the first few times i was asked that question, i couldn't answer it. at least in my own satisfaction. and that was what caused me to try to answer it by plunging into the writings of the soldiers themselves. their letters. their diries. -- diaries. for cause and answers. but that's not the book we're here to talk about this evening. i conclude, the prologue of hallowed ground with a series of questions. what brought those 165,000 soldiers to gettysburg during the first three days of july, 1863? why did they lock themselves in
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such a death grip across these fields until 11,000 of them were killed or mortally wounded, another 29,000 were wounded but survived. and about 10,000 were listed as missing. mostly captured. what was accomplished? by all of that carnage? join me, i wrote, for a walk on this hallowed ground where we will try to answer these questions. and each of the next three chapters takes up those questions for days one, two, and three of the battle. and tries to explain what happened, tell some anecdotes along the way, and figure out the meaning of it all. we figurively walk -- i figurively walk readers across the battlefield, narate the course of the battle, discuss some myths about gettysburg,
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tell some anecdotes about tours of the battlefield i've lead. place the battle in some larger context. and i conclude the book as i conclude my tours by walking to the hallowed ground of the national military cemetery where we stand at or near the spot where lincoln delivered the 272 words of the gettysburg address. it is best to go there at dusk. and listen to the call of morning doves. as we look out over the graves in this pass turel setting. it is then that we contemplate the true meaning of that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. gettysburg, to me is important not prime yarle as the highwater mark of the confederacy but as the place where this nation under god shall have a new birth of freedom.
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now, as i try to answer your questions -- and i'm sure you have some. i hope you'll be able to share with me the moving experience of traversing this hallowed ground even if we o it here only figurively. so i'm willing to try to answer any questions you have. hard ones and easy ones. i can promise to answer the easy ones. the hard ones i may refer to experts in the audience. so please go ahead. i'll repeat the questions for you here. ok. good. >> in "hallowed ground" you do some describing of the story. each time with great reluctance it seems to me there was a struggle between the historian and the visitor who wants to be caught up in those lingering spirits. am i reading that correctly?
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is there a struggle there for you as you come and walk this ground? >> sometimes there is a struggle. and in fact, if you've read the book, you'll know that some of the quote/unquote myths that other historians have claimed to demolish i actually question whether they might have some validity. the famous story that the battle began because of shoes. most of you are probably familiar with that. there was a rumor that there was a large supply of shoes in gettysburg and the advance brigade of henry heath's division of the army of northern virginia supposedly got permission from heath to go into gettysburg where they expected nothing but local militia, which they could brush aside to get those shoes. and that's how the battle started. because instead of local my lishia, there was bueford's two cavalry brigades and the battle build up from there. so for years people were told the battle began because of
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shoes. nobody planned to fight here. and in fact, lee did not get here until half way through the afternoon, half way through the first day's battle. and immediate did not get here at all until midnight that night. so the battle built up without either commander here. historians pointed out there weren't any shoes in gettysburg. and that heath later told the story about shoes as a way of explaining how and why he got into a battle against lee's orders not to bring on a general engagement until the whole army was concentrated. well it may be true, but it may not be. the fact that there were no shoes in gettysburg does not necessarily mean the con fed rats didn't think there were. and it wasn't only heath but others who later gave that explanation. who didn't have maybe heath's self-serving reason for doing so. so i'm still inclined to think that there might be something to the shoe story so there's one place where i feel some division.
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i think gordon's story abou providing suss stance and water for barlow is probably false. and i do -- i don't have any reluctance to debunks that one. the spring fraternization story is probably also false. there i think that is a story -- are you all familiar with that story? that on the night of july 2 and 3 soldiers of both sides came together to fill their canteens at spanning letter -- spangler's spring and they talked over the battle, put aside their guns and frat yearnized? it's a very romantic story. but there's no contemporary evidence that indicates it's true. and there's plenty of contemporary to the battle itself that indicates that it didn't happen. it's a story that built up in
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the 1880's and afterwards during the period of reconciliation between the veterans and the blue and gray who wanted to look back on that experience as not a bitter conflict over principal andology -- and idealology and territory, but as some sort of romantic experience of their youth that they can now look back on. it's a story really about the period of reconciliation in the 1880's rather than the story about the battle itself. so these -- this is the range of the kinds -- and there's some other things, too, as well. but i suppose it is with some ambivalence that i argue that some of these things were not true or at least not true in the way that they're sometimes literally understood. but i think that the tourist is better served by understanding
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that there are myths about the battle of gettysburg and why they built up. and why we might want to believe some of those myths or why generations -- the last four generations since the war might have wanted to believe some of these myths. but i think the tourist are better served by pointing out that in some case there's no real evidence to sustain these myths. yes? >> when i approached the subject, what i have told students is that he doesn't exist, how can that be? how do you balance the wonderful magnetism of the book to the subject and the actual zpreizz? >> i probably -- the question has to do with how do you teach the "killer angels" when it's a work of fiction and not all of
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the things in there are literally true? when students like to believe that they're true because they read it in a book. i think i do what you probably do and point out that this is a novel. and that a novelist has creative license, even in historical novels, to invent scenes or dialogue that serve his purpose, his larger purpose. and like you i often point out some of the things that are the novelist's invention and not literally true. students can understand and appreciate that, i think. i assign that book because i think it has something really important to say about the meaning of the civil war or about the meaning that those who fought it, the principal characters in the novel atributed to what they were doing. and it's also a great way to
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introduce somebody who knows nothing about the battle of gettysburg to the battle of gettysburg. and from there you can go on and talk about what's literally true in this novel and what is either metaphorically or in some other creative way true. cause the truth is not merely fact. a novelist can get at truth through other means than literal fact. and i think one great thing about that novel is that it does that. yes. >> speak of fition, -- fiction, have you ever thought of writing a novel or fiction? >> i've given it some idle thought from time to time but not serious thought. maybe when i retire i'll give it some serious thought. we'll see. >> longstreet's contribution or lack of contribution to picket's charge.
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there's a very good biog raffy -- biography of longstreet which i read recently which discusses his bad reputation coming up after war. some of the comments. >> for a long time, longstreet was regarded in the writings of southern historians, the confederacy's military history. longstreet was regarded as the goat of gettysburg. responsible for having lost the battle. and longstreet was not shy about fighting back ad presenting his own particular point of view about that. what you have to remember is that the writing of civil war military history by southerners and the creation of the southern memory of the civil war was dominated by
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virginians. right on down to at least the 1960's. i think that would be true. and think about the foremost officers and leaders in the army of northern virginia. robert e. lee of virginia. stewart of virginia. richard ewell of virginia. a.p. hill of virginia. longstreet, out of virginia. so if virginians are going dominate the writing of civil war history and if robert e. lee is to be elevated to a kind of semidiety, somebody has to be blamed. and it can't be lee or the other virginians. for gettysburg am and longstreet in their eyes, also made the mistake after the war of becoming a republican, urging southern whites to accept the outcome of the war, accepting a federal office from grant when he was president. and becoming commander of the
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interracial pro reconstruction militia of louisiana in clashes, armed clashes with lots of people being killed with the so-called white leagues in louisiana who consisted primarily of confederate veterans. so they didn't like his politics, either. and i would say that down until -- there were some historians. a man named glen tucker who wrote a book called "lee and longstreet" back in the 1950's who took logstreet's side in that controversy and said if somebody's on the confederate side is responsible for mistakes at gettysburg, it's more lee than it was longstreet. but it wasn't until "killer angels" came along that longstreet got his real due because that reached millions of readers and was a sympathetic portrait of longstreet. and now i would say that the
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weight of consensus among historians -- well, it's more complex than that. but it's not that longstreet can be blamed for losing gettysburg. in fact, i would also say that the consensus among most hiss to ever toreans now is that -- among most historians now is that's the wrong question. the question why did they lose gettysburg is the wrong question. and the best way to get at what i mean is to quote george picket. who somebody asked after the war, who he thought was responsible for losing gettysburg. he said, well, i always thought the yankees had something to do with it. and, in fact, most of the scholarship now has focused on the effective leadership and tactical decisions and fighting of the union side in that battle. it wasn't so much a question of the confederates losing the battle of gettysburg as the
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union winning it. yeah? >> to what effect do you think general lee's health had on the outcome of the battle? >> i was always skeptical about that. it suggested, of course, by "killer angels" that the aftereffects of heart seizure or heart attack in march of that year might have effected his judgment. other historians have suggested that as well. i've always been a little skeptical of that because lee probably did suffer from some kind of a heart attack in march of 1863 and actually his heart condition was the cause of his death at the age of 63 in 1870. seven years after battle. so clearly he had a heart condition am. but if that had affected his judgment and his decision-making at gettysburg in july, how does one explain
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chance lorsville? two months earlier and therefore two months closer to the time of his heart attack, which almost all historians regard as lee's most brilliant battle. so i'm still a little bit skeptical. on the other hand, there were a couple of surgeons and physicians at the university of virginia medical school who were also civil war buffs who wrote an article in one of the medical journals about 10 years ago on lee's heart condition. and they said that probably it was affecting his judgment at gettysburg. so you pay your money and take your choice. i don't think anything can be proved one way or the other. my own feeling is that what affected lee's judgment at gettysburg primarily was that experience at chancelorsville.
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lee thought that longstreet's flank attack had been a success on july 2. and that the next day, may 3, a frontal attack all along the line had succeeded. and, of course, that's what he was trying to do at day three at gettysburg. so i think it was at model of a successful -- of a victory against greater odds. lee -- the army in northern virginia was facing greater odds than at gettysburg in terms of number. and he won. he thought could win again with pretty similar tactics against the same army. smaller in numbers now than had been at chancelorsville. while he had two divisions with him that hadn't been there. they hadn't -- they had been detached under longstreet, south of the james river. near norfolk. in another operation.
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so they weren't even there. so if he had won there without these two divisions, which were two better divisions in the army, why not win at gettysburg? i think that was lee's mindset. yes? [ [inaudible] >> yes. it is what he told longstreet. the enemy is here and i'm going to attack him here. longstreet wanted to force the army of the potomac to attack them. that was always lee's philosophy. he was ofive-minded. he wanted to attack. he wanted to hold the initiative. he did not want to yield the initiative to the enemy. longstreet had an opposite tactical philosophy. he was more defense-mind. somebody that's more modern and anticipated -- or had a better appreciation of the lethality within modern weapons. but you're right.
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lee always disliked having to yield the initiative or fight on the defensive. he was forced to. but whenever he could do so, he wanted to take -- assume the offensive. he once told -- he was quoted as telling earlier -- this was in 196 4. he was once -- he quoted napoleon. and i don't know whether he was accurate or not. but he said napoleon had said that the logical end of defensive warfare is surrender. presumably that was really lee's philosophy. lee also realized that the longer the war went on, the less likelihood the confederacy could win because the north greater industrial resources and capacity and numbers would wear them down in the end. and so when the confederacy, at least as he saw it was on a role in the spring, at least in the east, he wanted to push
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that advantage. and try to win the war in this invasion. >> [inaudible] into >> the battle of the wilderness took place in the first few days of may. may 5 and 6f fifth and sixth of 1864, so it was almost exactly a year after johnson and after gettysburg an. it took place at almost the sam ground as it had taken place -- earlier. ar earlier. by 1864, both armies had a fairly large number of
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conscripts and the union army a fairly large number of substitutes and so-called bounty men who were less motivated to fight. and dealing with what they call ed stragglers, skulkers, deserters, they became much tougher on that. these were people who were not there necessarily -- soldiers not there because they necessarily wanted to be. and as a consequence, i think the fighting quality of both armies, but especially lit union army, gradually went down from the volunteers of 1961 and 1962. >> and the age it began to go down? >> not necessarily. the average age stayed fairly constant because as they also recruited younger people, they were recruiting older people. especially in the con fed rassy. the first draft act in the confederacy passed in april
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1862 made awfully those eligible from 18 to 35. they stretched that to 45. in the fall of 1862. dropped it to 17. in i guess 1864. 10 while they were recruiting younger people, also older people. so the average age at time of enlistment was about the same in both armies and remained relatively constant for that reason throughout the war. it was about 23 or 24. >> large numbers in 1964 so by the end of the war 190,000 of the union soldiers and sailors out of 2.2 million were black. >> you made reference in your earlier remarks about perceived
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prejudice or bias in the academic community. do you think that that still exists today? >> it still exists today, although i don't think it's as great as it used to be. and i can just take my own institution as an example. where we now have an endowed chair in the history of war and society. which is new for princeton. a couple of colleagues and i over the years have been offering a course. for a while just every other year. now recently every year on that war and society in the modern world. not just american history. much of it is european history. i think what's happened is a broadening of the meaning of military history from just the focus on strategy tactics, generals, battles, to the
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larger question of the impact of war on whole societies and on larger historical developments. if you stop and think about it, what has done more than warfare to shape the entire world in the 20th century? or what has done more to shape this country than wars, especially lit revolution and the civil war. and when you start asking questions like that and including that within the per view of military history it broadens it and gives it a greater legitimacy in the eyes of people who say i don't care about strategy and tactics. but they are interested in the larger impacted of wars. >> i'm very much look forward to reading your book. i have walked these fields many times over the years for the last 50 years. my family has six generations
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between blackhorse after iten and others in our family. while i'm sure you have various insights into topography that is quite well known, little round top, peach orchard and such, in doing the book were there certain areas of topography that perhaps the average civil war reader is not aware of that caught your fancy? that this was something that was probably not well known by a lot of people and it caught your fancy? >> well, i'll just give you a couple examples of that. one is the very place where the battle started. so the-called first shop. i never actually had known where that was or gone to see it. but in preparation for writing this book i decided i have to go find that out. it's about 2.4 miles west of
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the areas where buford and the first corps fought where reynolds was killed. there's a little marker, first shot marker. self cavalry had been sent throughout the night before to watch and give warning if the confederates came down the road. and 7:30 that morning out of the mist they loomed. came down the road. gouk there. it's kind of interesting. because it's high ground right up from marsh creek. it's an obvious place to set a first defensive position. so lieutenant jones saw those guys coming. he borrowed a carve from one of his soldiers. they fired the first shot. then they conducted the next retreat to the next ridgeline
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where there was a secondary picket, post there. to slow the confederate process and also to warn buford that they're coming. then they fell back to hair ridge. that's where the heavy fighting took place on the morning of july 1. no relation to me. i have never seen this spot. hardly anybody has seen it. there's a little marker there. the park service actually owns about a one-acre plot there. there's now an abandoned house that i guess they've gotten the title to. it's kind of dangerous to walk across the road and clamor up the ditch there to see that marker. but that was something i had not known about. but going out tre you can see why that's where they set up the post. another thing that i like to tell people in the book when i give tours is that at the very same time that chamberlain and the 20th were fighting at little round top -- and
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everybody knows how chamberlain sidestepped his regimen and refused the flank and doubled his line to prevent the confederates from getting to his rear. the same exact thing was happening on the hill with the 137th new york. part of george green's brigade, which was the only union brigade left when the rest of them went to reinforce to fight on the left. against a pretty strong confederate attack. it could have been just as dangerous if it had been successful to the whole union line as capture of little round top would have been. nobody knows anything about the 137th new york because nobody wrote a novel about that. and their colonel, david ireland was his name. you might think he was irish.
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he wasn't. he was scott-eyish. he was from upstate new york, so the name is a little misleading. they suffered the same number and proportion of casualties as the 20th main. did the same thing. they had to refuse their flank. you can see where this happened. the terrain is not quite as obvious as it is at little round top. but it's something that is worth doing. so i take people there and try to point out what happened. and i hadn't really known anything about it until i got serious about studying -- read a couple of books on the flight. went over there and looked at the terrain. >> you do a comparison. [inaudible] do you think that time, the facts -- people start comparing
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facts? >> i've been a one-man crusader for that. so far i don't think i've made much headway. the mystique of picket's assault, picket's charge. unsurpassed bravery, courage, valor. you know, lost cause but a noble cause. celebrated. they're all heroes. and so on. 13,000 men, 6-7,000 had become casualties in half an hour. a year ater, 11 months later, 50,000 against confederate trenches and in half an hour loses 7,000 men. grant's seen as a butcher. lee is seen as not. it's a result -- you said it. the lee mystique. i think that has been -- the lee mystique has taken a beating among a lot of historians in the last decade. starting with tom connelly and
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then others. but whether picket's charge will ever be downgraded to bullheaded stupidity and grant's assault elevated to valor and courage, i wouldn't hold your breath for that to happen. it may happen some day. last question? anybody else? yes. >> the theme of the civil war this year is after gettysburg. there's been much discussion based on brown's thesis of a book he's coming out with next year that has two positions. one that virtually immediate had no chance at being able to cut off lee before he made it to the potomac. and the other that in a sense the gettysburg campaign is successfully -- able to gather so many supplies that what he takes with him over the river sustains the army of northern virginia for months or even into the next year. i was wondering of your
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impressions on those. >> i haven't heard kent speak on this and haven't read the man yew script. but i have heard second hand the thesis as you've summarized it. we'll never know whether immediate could have successfully attacked at williamsport. maybe he's right. the union attacked there on july 12, 13 work not have been successful. i guess that's what his argument is. that's not -- that's not the only criticism one can make of immediate. why didn't he counterattack on the afternoon of july 3 with the reserves -- who hadn't fired a shot. but, you know, the controversy about immediate will go on and on just as the controversy about lee and longstreet will go on and on. on question of the success of the invasion, because it gathered all kinds of supplies, i think you have to set that off against at least 25 and maybe 28,000 casualties.
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in the armive northern virginia. sure they got a lot of cattle r in the pennsylvania countryside. but the loss of that many men, many of whom never came back. i think had to cripple the army of northern virginia did cripple it. i think probably more than offset the supplies that sustained the army for a long time. that's my feeling about it. >> thank you. [applause] >> available to sign books out
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recently booktv asked our twitter followers with a plan on reading this summer. here are some of their tweets.
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♪ ♪ >> here are some of the top-selling nonfiction titles at independent bookstores around the country according to
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what are you reading this summer? book tv wants to know. >> i'm looking forward to reading the latest volume of the lyndon johnson nseries, and that's taken time. i spent most of my time -- >> i have a galley of richard ford's canada and that is the book i'm going to read.


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